Mid Island Air Service is aptly named. Located just east of the middle of Long Island, the family business keeps plugging along rain or shine, winter and summer. It’s been 68 years since Gail Mancuso’s father moved on from instructing English and Scottish pilots in World War II and began instructing the local population of this coastal community. Gail serves as vice president and general manager now, twin titles that keep her busy in the challenging environment presented by the thin strip of land that separates Long Island Sound from the Atlantic Ocean.
As the weather cleared and the temperature climbed north of freezing, Gail and her crew sprang into high gear. They hosted an open house in late April. An open house that was very well attended.
“On Saturday we had fifty graduate students from Columbia [University] come out,” Gail said. “On Sunday we had thirty-seven more take an introductory flight.”
Mid Island held their open house in an effort to promote a one-day flight experience they’re developing for adventurous adults. They are tentatively calling the program, AeroExperience, although a number of the younger adults they flew took to referring to it as, pilot-for-a-day. “We actually did sixty-nine flights on Saturday,” Gail reports.
Those are pretty good numbers for a mom-and-pop flight school operation. They represent a large number of potential customers coming through the door for a special event designed to create that exact opportunity. Admittedly, Gail and her crew are tempting fate. The weather alone can be a challenge, and it was in this case. The field was IFR until very nearly 2 p.m. on the first day. That unfortunate turn of events caused Gail to push the end of the open house from 2 p.m., as advertised, to 5 p.m. “We didn’t want to disappoint these kids,” Gail explains. “They’d ridden a bus for two, two and a half hours to be here.”
Her persistence and flexibility paid off. Not only did she and her staff promote the new program they wanted to show off, they hauled a lot of passengers on a round-the-patch ride that gave a hands-on introduction to flight instruction to a volume of potential students far larger than would typically stop out to the airport on a weekend in April.
The task of marketing a flight school to an ever larger customer base is not easy. But it can be done, and it can be done successfully without a massive marketing budget. The payoff for Gail and Mid Island Air Service was achieved when a handful of the day visitors inquired about taking lessons to earn a pilot’s certificate. New customers were ushered through the doors, introduced to the staff, sat in the aircraft, witnessed the wonder of a Redbird simulator, and found the allure of flying enough to cause them to take out their checkbooks.
Yes, Gail and her crew tempted fate, in a good way. And they came away with a win. You have to respect that. It might not be a bad idea to emulate the plan and adopt it to your own use, either.